Wednesday, August 04, 2004

"Struggling for work, and waking at night worried about one’s future"

Who, moi? Not at all – well, not at least until the laughter from reading this has subsided. Perth media personality Jenny Seaton is claiming unfair [constructive] dismissal, after being given a take-it-or-leave-it offer of contract renewal that involved a pay-cut. The appallingly low, new sum the poor dear was being offered was $70k.

Dramatising the point, Seaton sobbed-out at her hearing:

"At that point I felt like I was being hit by a bus, because what worth we felt we had at the company was just being taken away. I had worked very hard to get to a point to be told you're not worth it. I felt my dignity was being stripped away."

Diddums. If being forced to live on a salary of $70,000 is like a combination of being strip-searched and getting hit by a bus, then it’s just as well that I, and the majority of my generation, have been permanently spared the horrors that are apparently ancillary to such an income.

But seriously – I do accept that Seaton would be suffering some genuine and legitimate disappointment. A pay cut is a pay cut, even if from an astronomical (and presumably unsustainable) earlier figure. What I don’t accept though, is that in the high-stakes and dog-eat-dog media industry (famously exemplified by Derryn Hinch’s dozen or so sackings), Seaton can expect to be (and have been) taken seriously as a player, while throwing a very public, princess-sized wobbly. Hint to Seaton: if you’re really that good, they’ll call you.

A similarly over-large wobbly by a clueless princess is currently being thrown by Age property editor Aileen Keenan, who remains in the role however. Keenan is claiming gender discrimination, on the basis of being paid less than her male predecessor. Like Seaton, Keenan is a woman who (i) sniffs at a $70k-ish salary like it was Monday's fish (Keenan is on $76k*) and (ii) a boomer (Seaton’s age is given as 57, Keenan’s is not given, but from an accompanying photo*, appears to be in her mid-to-late 40s**).

Again, I don’t deny that Keenan’s claim is without any merit. Gender discrimination – women being paid less than men for doing the same job, or vice versa – is a genuine evil. It’s just that I’m personally quite happy, prepared and qualified to suck the poison out of the particular snake-bite wound of discrimination that so ails Keenan. Meaning that I’m willing to take her thankless and underpaid job off her hands, all in return for getting paid only half what she’s getting ($38k). I’ve written real-estate advertorials before, and they’re a cinch for an old lawyer well-schooled in the art of adjectival misrepresentation.

In favour of Keenan’s taking up my offer is that the Age’s “boys’ club” would henceforth have a visible and salutory reminder of a man being overtly – but needless to say, consensually – discriminated against, by way of salary. Of course, taking up my offer would also leave Keenan without a job, but isn’t it the principle that she’s really fighting for? Also, living on $76-thou is clearly such a burden for Keenan that surely she’s better to throw in the towel (“sea change”, anyone?), rather than keep getting repeatedly hit by the proverbial bus of meagre comparative remuneration. (Even she wins this battle, the ‘boys' club’ is hardly going to disband an iota into the future.)

* Maurice Dunlevy “Back in the Stone Age . . . newspaper run by a ‘boys' club’” The Australian 4 August 2004 (no URL)

** (29/08/04) Keenan is 42. The same article goes to quite some lengths to avoid naming phantom column writer John Hine – repeat to Google, John Hine – even though Hine was named by the Oz a few weeks earlier.

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